Todd Youngblood: You hear the number 22 in the military community, a lot. 22 is supposed to represent the number of suicides by veterans or active duty military that happen every day.
Nicole Jirtle: As soon as I graduated high school, I joined the military. I was stationed in Mosul, in Northern Iraq, the most violent city at the time. I was a medic working in the emergency room. Every now and then, a tank would have hit an IED and we'd have 18 men come in, covered in shrapnel. With still processing the trauma, they prescribed me Ambien, Xanax, Mirtazapine, Remeron. It was a cocktail.
Nicole Jirtle: One day I took, I think it was a three month supply, a blood pressure medication, and locked myself in the bathroom. It didn't work. No, I did not feel like I was in my right mind.
Todd Youngblood: We've never, as a country, dealt with this amount of people cycling through these combat roles. I think there's, roughly, about 40 to 50,000 transitioning out of active duty military, a year, in Colorado. Our government does a lot for our veterans, but there's a lot of gaps in those services. There's so much to be done. Hey man, how you doing?
Rob Bingham: It's nice, man. Third deployment. This is the first time that I've had my own space, so it's kind of nice.
Todd Youngblood: You know, why are you in Kosovo?
Rob Bingham: I'm just here to drink their coffee.
Todd Youngblood: That's it, huh? Well that's-
Todd Youngblood: So, Rob Bingham is the founder of the Colorado Veterans Project. It's our mission to help establish a network, so when they get home, they truly have access to the services that they need so they can heal.
Rob Bingham: You can see that now. I think we did 138,000 pounds of food that we've been able to donate to help feed homeless veterans. It's quite amazing.
Todd Youngblood: 2020, it's going to be a big year for us. He's got a massive heart and it's not only him, it's his wife, Laura. They're a great team. She's one of the co-founders of the project as well.
Laura Bingham: When someone signs up to be in the military, the rest of the family signs up as well. There are, gosh, there are like a hundred, 150 veteran nonprofits in Colorado. We bring them together, and fundraise, and give back.
Jim Stevens: I was shot in the head in Vietnam. It left bullet fragments in my head. One of those bullet fragments moved. I lost my eyesight in 30 minutes. This is the Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW, post number one. We don't have an open bar, we have an art gallery instead. We work with veteran artists. We assist them, mentor them, we display their work at our art gallery.
Nicole Jirtle: They just took me under their wing as one of their own and I found an outlet that ended up being my saving grace.
Laura Bingham: The community part of it is so important because community is a lifeline.
Jim Stevens: This artist is a veteran and he's legally blind. A man with a vision is never truly blind.
Rob Bingham: Notes about Colorado Veterans Project. Laura, I hate to task you.
Laura Bingham: No, this is good. I have a little laundry list to do.
Todd Youngblood: Once you begin that road of service, it's hard to stop.
Nicole Jirtle: Jim, he put his arm around me? He was, "Kiddo, you've come a long way. You know you're thriving and I'm proud of you." It's a sign of strength to reach out for help when you need it. It's not weakness at all.
Laura Bingham: Goose says, "Hi." He misses his dad.
Rob Bingham: Give him a big hug and kiss for me.
Laura Bingham: Yeah, I will.
Rob Bingham: Bye sweetie.
Laura Bingham: Okay. All right. Take it easy. Love you. Bye.
Rob Bingham: Bye.
Laura Bingham: I'm just so proud of him.